Reimagining Education

Just the Facts: Charter school admission

(This is the fourth in a series of posts clearing up misconceptions that opponents of school choice are spreading in the capitol and across the state.)

The facts are clear when it comes to charter school enrollment. Charter schools are public schools that are open to ANY student who lives in the school’s attendance zone.

That means that charter schools, unlike some public magnet schools, cannot pick and choose the makeup of their student body in any way.

If you are a student with special needs and apply to a charter school, then the school has to accept you if they have open seats and they must provide you with all the services mandated by federal regulations.

If you are a low income student experiencing increased mobility and apply to a charter school then the school has to accept if they have open seats.

If you are a student who has fallen behind and do not have a stellar academic record and apply to a charter school then the school has to accept you if they have open seats.

If you are English Language Learner (ELL) student and apply to a charter school they have to accept you if they have open seats.

See a pattern?

Public charter schools in Missouri must accept any student in their district that applies if the school has open seats.

In fact, in 2017, 12 percent of students in St. Louis charter schools and 9 percent of students in Kansas City charter schools were students with special needs. Twenty percent of students in Kansas City charter schools were ELL students and nine percent of students in St. Louis charter schools were ELL students in 2017.

What happens when too many students apply?

Frequently, a charter school has more applicants than they have seats for, and when that happens state law lays out a clear process for students to be accepted in an equitable way.

Schools can give some preference for students who live a geographical area around a school as long as it does not isolate the school racially or socioeconomically. Schools can also give enrollment preference to siblings of currently enrolled students and children of school employees.

When faced with too many applicants after these preferences have been taken into account, a charter school then chooses applicants through a lottery system which guarantees equal access to the school for all children.

This process is called a lottery and results in final enrollment offers being selected through a verified random process.

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